Ivan Amodei (e-von ah-moe-day) is an award-winning, world class performer on schedule to perform his 400th show at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on famed Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California.
His show, "Intimate Illusions", evokes feelings of intimacy and glamour, with a candle-lit Venetian setting and a star-studded audience that often includes the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Nicholas Cage, Jim Carrey, and Ashton Kutcher. Ivan's magic, both intimate and illusions, includes thought provoking messages of hope and values. He is a master of storytelling and drawing the audience into the magic, helped by his dynamic personality and artistry.
Aside from being the resident headliner at the Beverly Wilshire, Ivan frequently tours the country, selling out recent venues in both Chicago and San Francisco. Recently honored by the Mayor of Beverly Hills for his contributions to the world of Magic and Illusion, his show is currently ranked #1 on Tripadvisor for attractions in Beverly Hills.
Rick – Hi Ivan.
Thanks for taking time to answer a few questions for our wonderful readers. Tell us first what led Ivan Amodei to magic's doors. Who were your early inspirations and did you have a mentor (or mentors)?
Ivan – When I was 5 years old, I saw a friend of the family do some magic while guests were on the way. I was hooked and my journey began. I worked at local magic shop (didn't get paid though) and learned all the tricks and was demonstrating magic within a few weeks to the customers. I read all the books and by age 11 I was doing some hefty sleight-of-hand. I knew this was something for me to dig deeper into, even at 11. I really do not have direct mentors, but was able to watch Doug Henning and David Copperfield and knew there was a future in this field.
Rick – I can't say enough about your amazing show, Intimate Illusions, brought to life at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, best described on your site as located at.. "the most fashionable intersection in the world: Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Blvd." How did you come about securing one of the most desirable magic 'gigs' in all of magic?
Ivan – I had some connections to the Four Seasons company and I guess the rest is history. I told them I wanted something unique, upper scale and unlike anything a guest (that might have an opinion about a magic show) has every experienced. So it began and it continues on now into its THIRD year.
Rick – With two shows on both Friday and Saturday nights, it would be so easy to imply that working two days a week and off five must be a blessing.. but we know that performing in and sustaining a show that is on the verge of it's 400th performance is a full-time job.. not to mention that you also perform 'on the road'. How does a typical week look.. or is there such a thing?
Ivan – YES, I breathe eat and sleep my career. I actually need more hours in the day to finish everything. It never stops as far as scheduling tours, dealing with advertising, talking to contacts etc. But I also keep my show fresh by designing new illusions at least one a month. My show has considerably changed since it first opened. I'd say almost every illusion, structure, music and choreography is completely different. It's really full time job plus another full time job all into one. During the day, I take care of the business side along with my manager, publicist requests, interviews, etc. At night I work on all the creative and design new pieces for the show, including research, creating prototypes and rehearsal.
Rick – For the benefit of my readers who are not familiar with your show; it's performed in a lavish setting, yet very intimate, with candlelit tables, and guests dressed as if attending a Hollywood exclusive after-party. With no stage, you are free to interact with your audience. How does this show differ from your shows in larger venues, such as the Fairmont in San Francisco or The Ritz Carlton in Chicago?
Ivan – In San Fran we had larger audiences. 300-400 per show. The material changed to accommodate that. The Ritz-Carlton Chicago, the shows were 150 guests and therefore, more material was moved in and out. No matter the setting, the show adapts and I customize as much as I can. What audiences love the most is all the audience participation and how they determine the direction of the show. Though many comments are that I use stooges because things like this could not happen, but I take that as a compliment, because it is to seem impossible. I have never used a stooge.
Rick – With celebrities in the audience, do you have a 'celebrity story' to tell?
Ivan – Some celebrities have BOUGHT OUT the show, therefore, the general public is not admitted, for obvious reasons. They bring their family and friends and have a private viewing of the show. I can't name who they are, but very famous people. Most are very gracious, polite and kind. We always have a great time.
Rick – I understand you perform an effect using 'pins' that is unique to your performance. Can you describe for my readers the basic premise? Can you also tell my readers a little something about the type of magic you perform.. (close-up, parlor, stage, mentalism…)
Ivan – My Houdini's Escape illusion is based on Houdini's ability to escape from any constraint one placed him in. He swallowed a steel lock pick and brought it back up when locked inside jail cells. I demonstrate his ability to swallow steel and bring it back up, but my version is with a shot glass full (75) of 2" tailor pins with colored heads on them. I bring the pins back up in color order that the spectators name out loud and then proceed to bring up the balance of the 75 pins that leads to a shocking ending. The magic I perform in the show is palour and stage mixed together. It plays very big and does not always require you to see it. You can hear my magic and also each illusion has a storyline that demonstrates the story I'm telling and incorporates humanity and a deeper message in it.
Rick – What is your favorite effect and which effect consistently gets the best response from the audience?
Ivan – One Illusion called the Miracle Worker: I talk about a man who walked the earth over 2000 years ago performing miracles. You witness a large glass of water change to wine before your eyes and then back to water. I then talk about the greatest miracle of all is not water to wine, but the miracle of…LIFE. I blow soap bubbles into the air and catch each one. As I drop the bubbles into the large water glass, they turn into LIFE – large Goldfish. More and more bubbles are blown into the air and I eventually fill the glass with over 30 goldfish from catching bubbles and placing them into the glass. Storyline and all it always get great reactions.
Rick – I really look forward to seeing it. Sounds amazing! I don't think some magicians understand the importance of storytelling and/or a compelling story line to compliment their effects. Time-wise, how much of your time is devoted to storyline development as opposed to mastering an effect? Are you strict about maintaining your performance or is it subject to change?
Ivan – Storyline is huge. My show is 90 minutes. It's not a 10 min act where you can come on belt out tons of visual stuff and then go. It's as long as most movies and it's just me and my cellist, so a storyline keeps everyone interested and waiting to see what is going to happen next. Techniques and mastery of the moves comes with rehearsal, but a great compelling story that makes the illusion come to life is much more difficult to find. It cannot be just tricks, the illusions must have meaning, depth, humanity and be presented entertainingly.
Rick – An article on your website details the 'Top Ten Secrets to Hosting a Great Event'. Without getting into great detail.. you list Entertaining, Add Music, Location, Attire, Trust the Experts, Expression, The Party, Consistency, Lighting, and Have Fun as the top ten secrets, along with the explanations of each, as most important. I see how each has influenced your show, with great success. But how about the 'average' performer who is performing at a local restaurant or school and doesn't feel that they have 'control' over the event? Can he, or should he, up his game and try to make each performance an 'Event' of it's own?
Ivan – If you are doing a restaurant gig, private party, corp show, etc the chances that you will have lighting, sound and all the items you need to make an experience for the guest will be rare. It doesn't mean you should not take the event. Experience doing the bad ones, the tough scenarios and the difficult situations make for a better, well rounded performer. You will learn more from the bad performances than the good ones. You need a place to be bad, but continue to never be satisfied and always try on the "NEXT" performance to be 10-20% better than previous times. It takes thought, work, persistence, patience and most of all passion.
Rick – Your book, 'Magic's Most Amazing Stories' could have been 'Reports from the Road'.. with stories from dozens and dozens of magicians about problems at the airport, hecklers, fires, animal horror stories, technical problems, lost props and moving testimonies from performers we all know.. Care to share a little sample of one of your favorite stories..?
Ivan – Possibly Houdini’s most famous feat was his jump from the Belle Isle Bridge into the Detroit River. As the story accounts, on November 27, 1906 Harry Houdini, after being locked into two sets of handcuffs, jumped off the bridge and into a hole that had been cut in the ice. He did not resurface. Panic spread through the crowd. Houdini’s assistants knew that he couldn’t hold his breath for more than three and a half minutes. the ending is classic Houdini in which I won't give away, but is amazing in itself.
Rick – One last question. I can't get tickets to see Celine Dion, much less employ her cellist, the beautiful Irina Chirkova, to add accompaniment and grace to your performances. How did you arrange this partnership? Do you find having Irina as part of the show a distinct advantage to 'assistants' as employed by other leading illusionists.?
Ivan – I met Irina through my wife as we were looking for a cellist for the show years ago. We have become good friends and she is a talented cellist. She can basically read my mind and see something coming and prepare. I love the idea of the live music and the cello, with its deep sounds to its high pitch noises, fits the show perfectly and audiences really love it. Irina is a huge asset to the show. I do not know of any other show of this type that has this and this adds to a more special experience.
Rick – I sincerely Thank You for taking time to answer these questions for Roadshow readers. I could easily send fifty more questions, but I know your time is precious. My wife and I are looking forward to attending your show on a trip West later this year, even if I do have to pick up a tux..
Ivan – Thanks Rick. and I appreciate the interview.